Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pokémon Y (2013)

Genre: RPG | Players: 1-4 | Developer: Game Freak

The main lineage of Pokémon games all have the same structure; It’s unavoidable. You collect pokemon and grind them up jrpg style to defeat 8 gym leaders, the Elite 4, and then the Champion. The last few generations have all instituted sweeping social gaming innovations, however, and the changes for the 6th gen can be found here (navigate via the right sidebar). I generally avoid that sort of thing, so I won’t mention them further.

The biggest change this generation falls to the graphics. Being able to walk in all directions is cosmetic, admittedly, but the animations for each pokémon and their attacks are a sweeping, legitimate upgrade that drew me in FAR more than I would have ever expected. On top of that, I personally feel that this generation does the best job of providing a cross-section of pokes from the series’ exhaustive history. It’s cool to have an entirely new set, but it also runs the risk of alienating those for whom the majority fail to appeal. I’m looking at you, Gen 5.

There’s also attention paid to providing evolutions in the wild that normally require trades and/or special items. It may take a bit more work to catch them, but it’s worth it for the sense of self-reliance afforded. I’ve heard complaints about the EXP share now leveling all the pokes in your party at the same time, but… Wait, are people actually complaining about not having to grind as much? o_O

In terms of the story, I genuinely like my rival, which is a great change of pace compared to either detesting them or not caring at all. I feel legitimately awful that the items necessary for Mega Evolution can’t be given to them when I don’t care for that mechanic at all and have never used it outside of trying it once for the one pokémon I like that can actually do it. As someone who doesn’t battle other players, it’s a mostly visual change that’s the definition of temporary.

I didn’t foresee my return to the franchise being successful, but it was, as the atmosphere and world are just as charming and the graphics and unique story elements are utilized in the service of that end as opposed to simply providing a new set of pokes and nothing more.

If you play for the journey, don’t skip out on this leg of it. It’s quite possibly the best.

Buyer’s Guide: It’s a 3DS exclusive.

4 Self-spun Tales of a Boy Named Grump out of 5

I do not have binocular fusion and are thus incapable of experiencing 3D. 
Don't ask me how it looks here, or in any other 3DS game.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)

Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 / Multi | Developer: Ubisoft

Pop or feed the disc into your machine, allow it to install, get the huge (over one gig) patch to fix all the things that should’ve been fixed before it was released, sign in or skip the Ubisoft registration and you’ll finally be ready to play Black Flag, a prequel to the previous game, Ass Creed III (2012). It takes the seafaring aspect of III and expands it, giving you full access to your very own upgradable pirate ship and a huge ocean environment in which to jolly and roger around in.

Navigating is as simple as turning the bow of your ship in the direction you want to go and instructing the crew to drop sails. There are occasional hazards and enemy fleets to contend with, but unlike, for example, TLoZ: Wind Waker (2003), the actual journeying from place to place isn't dull. You can pick up flotsam and jetsam, go whaling (nasty, nasty business), engage other ships in combat and even have the crew sing sea shanties to fill the silence. The shanties are excellent.

Once you've discovered a location and synced with it by climbing to specific high points you can fast travel there at any time without having to set sail. Fast travel comes in very handy for side-quests and gathering collectables: Animus fragments, maps, buried treasure, hunting, crafting, upgrading (self and ship) and collecting sea shanty pages are some of what the world offers. The menus are packed with additional info relating to all aspects of the gameworld, from actual historical records of people and locations to transcribed song lyrics.

The story is better than anything Desmond ever had. As Edward Kenway you'll make friends, lose friends and even bury a few. I loved how they deepened the layers of interaction through him. You’re an Abstergo employee playing around inside the genetic memories of someone else who, at one time, is a pirate masquerading as an Assassin who’s masquerading as a Templar. Bravo, team.

The modern day sections of the game are more colourful than usual, but are still generally crap in comparison to the Animus adventures. Searching for sticky notes is a pain in the ass and playing a variation of Frogger to hack a computer is stupid.

The music has always been one of the best things about the series. In that it excels again, this time courtesy of Brian Tyler. It's been in my head for weeks.

I'd rather not end this review on a downer, but Ubisoft leave me little choice because in order to access small but crucial parts of the game—parts that are on the actual disc when you buy it, not DLC—players are required to create an account with their UPlay division. If you want to acquire all ship adornments and completely fill your inventory in the one player game then you need that UPlay account. Consequently, my AC IV inventory remains incomplete.

4 teeth of Neptune out of 5